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C Melody

Moz

Senior Member
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Having just read a couple of posts that refer to C melody saxes my question is...

...why are they not common? Surely it makes sense, especially in the student area, to make saxes that can use concert pitch notation.

What made them largely die out and indeed why, if they were likely to be so unpopular, were they made in the first place?

They seem to make so much sense.

Martin
 

Phil

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They were made to play at home or with a piano and share the same music. if you put one with other horns the intonation wont be right so its limited. Id venture to say that popularity faded with big band music, recording, and when use for a sax became more public than private. For instance if I have it right the Martin C melody was called the Home Model.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Sax designed 2 ranges of instruments, the familiar Bb & Eb instruments intended for military band use as they were pitched the same as the other band instruments they were supposed to replace. And C/F range intended for orchestral use, the way you suggest would be better.

The band instruments became widely established. But there was a lot of resistance to Saxophones as orchestral instruments, so the orchestral range never really took off. Although some more modern 'classical' music does have sax parts.

As Phil says, the C melody's were aimed at home/play along with piano use. Still a transposing instrument as they play an octave lower than the music. They gained a reputation for weak sounds/tin tone, but some things I've read claimed this was a misconception. Not sure why Phil says the intonation was a problem, I think it was about the same as it's contemporaries in Bb/Eb. However playing a C pitch instrument with music written for a Bb instrument would put things out a little.....

Lots of interesting stories about the development and history of the sax in the excellent book "The Devil's Horn" by Michael Segell.
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Might be considered wrong to suggest that C and F saxophones are transposing on the grounds that they play an octave above or below written pitch.
Piccolos are classed as non transposing instruments, otherwise you would need zillions of ledger lines and double A4 length paper to write for the screechers. Of course you could write 8va or 16va etc.
Yours pedantically. ;}
 

Phil

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I didnt mean to say that the horns had more intonation problems than other saxes of their time. I mispoke. What I intended to say was that you could not blend them with other horns and play in tune with them...

I have limited experience with them and didnt notice the problem but they were known for stuffiness (or so the legend says) and weak tone as earlier stated. Im sure a good C melody could be made. The tone issue may have been more endemic to the fact that they were potentially not made to professional standards but rather along the lines of a hobby instrument.
 

thomsax

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I think it's more "How do you want a sax to sound?" The saxophone is one of the instruments that became most simular to the afro-american music (blues, jazz, R&B ..). If I remeber right, I read in Kool's book "Das Saxophone" that in the end of the 20's there were about one million saxes made from Adolph Sax start and 80% of these saxes were built in America! So the saxophone is more or less an American matter.

The C saxes are fine saxes. If I compare a Buescher C soprano to a Buescher Bb soprano from the same era they are similar when it comes intonation, tone and ergonomics. That is, if I play with original mpc and dito reeds. The same goes for C-melody/tenor compared to the Bb tenor. On the C soprano you can play with a quite modern Bb soprano mouthpiece but I think a Bb tenor mouthpiece "kills" the character of the C tenor.

I often lend my C saxes to a guy who is playing Swedish folkmusic. In his hands, he is a good player, and with this type of music the C saxes sounds good. The F and C saxes are used in classical music. Lester young played on a C tenor. Jazz and R&B honker Willis "Gator Tail" Jackson played on a Conn-O-Sax in F. "Besides tenor-sax, Willis playes the Gator "Gator horn", a self designed saxophone used for ballads. Hanging almost to the ground, the "Gator horn" has a round ball with a small opening for the bell and sounds, he explains, between a soprano and alto sax and a french horn and clarinet", wrote Tony Burke on the backsleeve information on Jackson's LP "On My Own" (Whiskey Women and ... record company, KM-705). The gator horn was an ordinary (?) Conn-O-Sax in F practically the same as the curved Mezzo-soprano . I know the person who bought Jackson's "Gator horn" and it's used in classical music but even in commersials. They both lived in upper Manhattan in the early 80's. The odd C and F saxes can be used in modern music.

So the the question is: Who is ready to take up the production of new C and F saxes? I think JonF has a "new" one? Small market and high costs. But it's easier for the mouthpiece manufactors. New/modern mouthpieces for C and F saxes can perhaps give these saxes a renaissance?!?!

Sorry for my English!

Thomas
 

jonf

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Betelgeuse
I have limited experience with them and didnt notice the problem but they were known for stuffiness (or so the legend says) and weak tone as earlier stated. Im sure a good C melody could be made. The tone issue may have been more endemic to the fact that they were potentially not made to professional standards but rather along the lines of a hobby instrument.
Phil, I think you may have been absorbing a bit too much sax folklore. Although some, such as the Martin Home Model were far from pro standards, there were also a load which were built to the highest standards of the day. Martin made pro standard C mels, as did Buescher, Conn and a number of others. The Conn straight neck C Mel is built to a fantastically high standard - I know, I own one.

Stuffiness of tone and intonation problems come largely from using inappropriate mouthpieces. In common with other pitches of sax, the C Mel mouthpieces of the 1920s were very dull sounding. Using these today will still give a dull sounding sax. There are a few modern C Mel mouthpieces which will perk up the tone. You can also use a tenor mouthpiece, althugh you have to jam it right on to the crook to make it in tune. If you don't, it won't be.

My C Mel (which I was playing last night) has modern metal reflector pads, a new Aquilasax tenor style neck and a Berg Larsen Duckbill 120/0 tenor mouthpiece. I use Rico Jazz Select 2H reeds. It is anything but stuffy - it absolutely roars, and has intonation as good as any modern alto or tenor. With C Mels, you just need to know, more or less, what you're doing with them, and they can be absolutely great. No good in a sax section, of course, as all the sax music is pitched for Eb or Bb, but they shouldn't be written off as curios or toys. If you get a good one they're a load of fun.
 

jonf

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Betelgeuse
So the the question is: Who is ready to take up the production of new C and F saxes? I think JonF has a "new" one? Small market and high costs. But it's easier for the mouthpiece manufactors. New/modern mouthpieces for C and F saxes can perhaps give these saxes a renaissance?!?!

Sorry for my English!

Thomas
Hi Thomas

First up, no need to apologise for your English, it's fine.

No, I don't have a new C Mel, see post above, but Alan, Cmelodysax, has two, and he raves about them. I do have a neck and metal mouthpiece from the firm that makes the new ones, both of which are very good and inexpensive. Perhaps a small renaissance is under way?
 

Luluna

Señora
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Vermont, USA
Lots of interesting stories about the development and history of the sax in the excellent book "The Devil's Horn" by Michael Segell.
Thanks for posting this book title - I'm going to order a copy, but was looking for some way to do it through the BR - can't seem to find a way - here's the link http://tinyurl.com/mho3pv

I've been trying to get my hands on a C melody for a few years. Some women collect shoes, I collect musical instruments to play with!

fascinating info in this thread - ;}
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Might be considered wrong to suggest that C and F saxophones are transposing on the grounds that they play an octave above or below written pitch.
Piccolos are classed as non transposing instruments, otherwise you would need zillions of ledger lines and double A4 length paper to write for the screechers. Of course you could write 8va or 16va etc.
Yours pedantically. ;}
Interesting point. I guess we' re getting into common usage and technicalities here.

The Concise Grove Defines a transposing instruments as:

"Instruments whose music is not notated at its sounding pitch but transposed up or down by a specific interval. Transposition is reckoned relative to the pitch C, so that an instrument 'in F' sounds F when C is fingered"

"... an example is the english horn, pitched a fifth below the oboe (in C)."

"... This principle applies to virtually all types of clarinet, the alto flute and piccolo, the double bassoon and the saxophones"

"... Among the few transposing bowed instruments the most common is the double bass, written an octave above the sounding pitch, as also, usually, is the guitar's."

So instruments playing in the written key, but at a different pitch are defined as transposing instruments.

Even Wikipedia, that marvellous blend of fact and conjecture, lists the Piccolo as a transposing instrument, along with Celesta, tin whistle, hand bells, xylophone etc. as sounding an octave higher than written.

Even more pedantically ;};}
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Groves been absolute rubbish since the take over.

Obviously the great clef isn't great enough or should that be, isnt grate enough. There's a joke there somewhere.

Let's not cross swords on those who assume that instruments given a pedal note category are automatically transposing instruments. ;}
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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Location
Sweden
JonF,

I'm glad you can live with my English. I made a lot of mistakes ..... but that's the price I've got to pay with the new and fast ways to communicate. I also have a Conn C melody with straight neck. It's from -27 and silverplated with gold inside the bell. Nice sax. I got it cheap in the early 80's. No one wanted the C horns in those days. I haven't seen my for over a year. I hope my friend is taking good care of my C melody.

ByteOfTheCherry,

Thanks for the link. Interesting. They are going to up the C soprano as well!?! Not that I'm going to buy any more saxes .... . Maybe the can take up the F saxes also? I never got a F sax. I was so naive in the 80's that I thought I was able to have one sax of each (Conn's prod line in the 20's; sopranino, C soprano, Bb soprano, F Conn-O-Sax, Mezzo soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone and bass). I failed when it came to the F saxes. They are rare and the prices are also very high. The sopranino and the bass is sold. The bass was a very beaten up Selmer and it would have costed me fortune to get it in good playing condition.

Talking about Conn Mezzosoprano: I went to a workshop for saxtechs in the late 70's. The man who hold the workshop was trained at Conns repair school in the 30's. He told us that they could take a new/unsold mezzosoprano and "drop" it on the bench and give the order: Straighten it out!! :(

Thomas
 
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